The Denver Broncos Can't Afford Another Quarterback Controversy

The Broncos are staring down the barrel at yet another season replete with quarterback controversy. But what can they do to avoid it? Adam Uribes breaks it down.

With the hiring of head coach Vance Joseph this offseason, one of the first items the new boss addressed was the question of who would be his starting quarterback. Joseph remarked that he liked both of his inherited signal-callers and intended to hold an open competition that could go well into the summer.

As an outsider coming into what could be a very tenuous situation at the most important position on the field, it was a good move for Joseph to get out in front of it early.

There is no such thing as a “good” quarterback controversy. From Montana and Young in San Francisco to our own quarterback dilemma in Jay Cutler and Jake Plummer, if the Broncos go into this upcoming season without a lock on who will be the guy, it has the capability of dividing the locker room, damaging Joseph’s credibility and torpedoing a season.

The 2006 season is infamous in Denver Broncos lore as the season Plummer lost his starting job to Cutler in the midst of a 7-4 start and an appearance in the AFC Title game the year prior. After a Broncos loss on Thanksgiving night, the reigns were officially handed to Cutler and the rest was history.

Denver failed to make the playoffs that year and Plummer retired at the end of the season.

Former Broncos executives would say later that the move to Cutler from Plummer separated the locker into two factions — Plummer loyalists and Cutler guys. More significance was put on the physical talents of Cutler than the leadership bond and rapport Plummer had with his teammates.

In the end, the fallout from the move to Cutler did much to set back the franchise until John Elway made his return to the organization as Vice President of Football Operation five years later. The best football teams learn to function as a family. It’s next to impossible to have that close-knit feeling among the team if half of its players are openly lamenting the loss of someone like Plummer, while the other half are trying to do their best to help the new guy out.

That division does more to defeat a team than any opposition can do. If the "united we stand, divided we fall" maxim can be applied, look no further than the 2006 Broncos.

I wrote a while back that the fate of Vance Joseph is now tied, for better or worse, with Paxton Lynch. Yes, Joseph was the defensive coordinator for the Miami Dolphins when Denver moved up to take Lynch in last year's draft, but his fate is now married to the success or downfall of Lynch.

Just like Mike Shanahan and Ted Sundquist were always going to be tied to the fate of Cutler, how successful Joseph is will depend on how well Lynch does when he gets on the field. John Elway is even more anchored to Lynch than Joseph.

If the quarterback Elway traded up in the first round to select can't unseat an inexperienced, former seventh round pick, who likely would have gone undrafted were it not for Gary Kubiak pounding the table, it doesn't reflect well on Denver's front office czar.

With the move to get a scheme-flexible coach in Mike McCoy and a quarterback mentor in Bill Musgrave, you have to assume that those decisions were made primarily to get Lynch ready and not Trevor Siemian.

Where a player is or isn't drafted doesn't necessarily reflect on a player's ability (see Tom Brady), but there simply isn’t as much invested in Siemian, especially with a new regime coming in. The Broncos would lose little to nothing if Siemian is the backup this year, whereas, if Lynch flounders and sits another year, it reflects poorly on the front office and the coaching staff.

It’s an even worse scenario if neither player takes a firm grasp on the starter's job, something that is more plausible than people have perhaps given thought to. There's no doubt that Siemian has the respect of the locker room after the beating he took last year, but there also isn’t much to debate that Lynch is the far superior physical talent.

If both player have their shining moments, mixed in with an inability to overcome their weaknesses — Lynch and the mental side of the game and Siemian’s physical limitations — the Broncos are still in the bad spot of having two guys that don’t add up to one competent, complete player.

It’s also hard to say that having a quarterback-by-committee approach is a formula for a winning season as well. The Montana/Young situation is the rare occurrence when both players were future Hall of Famers.

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Most often, though, it’s the opposite — where one player has attributes the other doesn’t and vice versa. It has some merit in the college game but it’s rare to see at the pro level where quarterbacks are shuffled in and out and the team does well.

You can’t have two leaders in the huddle and you can’t have good play if you’re going to try and cobble together a legitimate quarterback out of two players. Aside from a guy going down with an injury and someone stepping in to take their place, like Jeff Hostetler once did with Phil Simms, a tag-team job at the QB spot doesn’t work.

Stability starts at the top and the trickle-down effect is evident if it’s not there. One leader needs to stand out among this team’s quarterbacks, or another 9-7 caliber season is coming around the corner, no matter how good the rest of the team is.

Those that don’t learn from history, are doomed to repeat it.

No matter who wins the job out of camp, for the sake of harmony in the locker room, continuity in the front office and success for the new coaching staff, it needs to be just Siemian or just Lynch — but it can’t be both. If one guy can solidify his claim as starting quarterback — sooner rather than later — it would go a long way toward keeping Denver’s window for Super Bowl contention open for at least one more season.


Adam Uribes is an Analyst for Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @auribes37.

Follow Mile High Huddle on Twitter @MileHighHuddle and on Facebook.

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